BREAKING GROUND: Lord and Lady Barnard with Ryan Chidzey and Charlotte Hawke
BREAKING GROUND: Lord and Lady Barnard with Ryan Chidzey and Charlotte Hawke

A POORLY child is one of two young “ambassadors” chosen by Raby Castle to celebrate the start of a major redevelopment project.
Gainford Primary School pupil Ryan Chidzey was selected along with Charlotte Hawke of the Federation of Abbey Schools, in Darlington, to break the ground and open the site to construction workers. Work began on the development, which includes a children’s adventure playground, last Tuesday. It is part of a multi-million pound tourism masterplan for the castle grounds.
Ryan suffers Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare condition that causes chronic fatigue in his muscles. His family have raised more than £50,000 for a research breakthrough fund to find a cure.
He was nominated for the competition by his headteacher Chris Riley who said Ryan always has a smile on his face, despite spending much time in hospital this year.
Speaking at the breaking ground ceremony, Lord Barnard said: “Today marks the start of the construction phase of this ambitious project, which will deliver wonderful spaces for families to enjoy and to further establish Raby Castle as a must-see visitor destination.
“I am thrilled to be joined by our deserving local heroes Ryan and Charlotte, both of whom are inspirational young people, and who will be invited to keep a close eye on the building work as it progresses. They will be invited back to test our new children’s adventure playground, before it opens to the public next spring.
“We have spent the last four years planning the development, which promises to put Raby Castle on the map for visitors to the area, as well as providing a beautiful place for the local community to enjoy, all year round.”
The playground will feature a fully accessible boardwalk through Raby’s Christmas tree plantation, opening up a previously inaccessible part of the grounds, as well as three-storey play towers, high-level walkways, tunnels and climbing walls, along with a number of ground-level play trails and slides.
The new attraction also has a purpose-built area for toddlers, with mini turrets and lookout decks – located next to the new split-level cafe area.
Other development projects at the castle, which have collectively been called The Rising include restoration of historic buildings, a new cafe and an events space.
The playground is the first phase of the two-year construction programme.